Labour in favour of fuel duty hike

A future Labour government is set to increase fuel duty and airline passenger duty – both of which have been frozen for several years – as part of a bid to redesign the transport system and respond to concerns around climate change, the party’s shadow transport secretary has indicated

Speaking at the Institute for Government, Andy McDonald said: ‘For too long, transport has been put in the “too difficult” box so far as climate change is concerned.

‘This will change under Labour.’

McDonald said the Department for Transport (DfT) does not have a carbon reduction budget or target, and also highlighted what he said were inconsistencies in the approach to regulating railways, motorways and bus services.

Transport is the UK’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and the worst-performing sector when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.  Recent years have seen a rising trend in emissions, caused largely by increased traffic growth, encouraged by an ever-expanding programme of road building.

As a result, McDonald said there was a need for ‘a new social contract for transport’.

‘Consider these points about where the burden falls on transport users. Fuel duty frozen since 2010 at a cost of more than £50bn. Air passenger duty in aviation broadly frozen over a similar period. Rail and bus fares up by more than a third. This is not a sensible approach to transport policy,’ he said.

McDonald has asked Professor Phil Goodwin, emeritus professor of transport studies at UCL and the University of the West of England, to lead a study into what a new social contract for transport should comprise.

‘I want him to investigate the key elements of building a social contract for transport which would be fair to all transport users, all other beneficiaries of transport and to all tax payers. The DfT will be at the heart of this social contract for transport between the public and government,’ he said.

The suggestion of a fuel duty increase was strongly opposed by the pressure group FairFuelUK. A spokesman said: ‘To suggest raising fuel duty now, just as the UK economy sharply contracts because of Brexit, shows that Labour really are financially illiterate.’

Conservative MP Robert Halfon said: ‘This announcement by the Labour Party shows a blatant disregard for road users, especially those in more remote and rural areas.

‘For many people, diving is the only method of transport available to them. Increasing fuel duty would be narrow minded and hit families and businesses right across the country.’

Andy McDonald’s speech is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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